PTSD & Gaming: How Can It Help?

While thinking of what topic to write about, I noticed PTSD being a frequent topic within the news of the world as well as within the world of gaming. It’s been a topic I’ve wanted to cover. PTSD is listed in the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, which brands PTSD as a mental disorder. Commonly, people might think otherwise.

Gaming affects people with PTSD. You may have heard about how someone had a negative mental reaction due to an explosion or another trigger in their video game they played, but in what ways  could it help?

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A number of events could bring this on, from a car accident to an explosion while overseas. This is a disorder on the Anxiety spectrum, which means it is an anxiety disorder. In order to understand how gaming could help or affect PTSD, it’s important to understand what it is.

PTSD shows up in everyone differently based on their own individual experiences. It creates anger, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, even causes nightmares and loss of concentration, they would be startled more, hypervigilant, and might avoid certain situations. PTSD could also cause someone to think about suicide. The military members who go off to war, many come back with PTSD and are never the same again. Even a simple car accident could cause someone to have PTSD, you’d be surprised at what could cause PTSD. However, it is different in everyone and its signs & symptoms will be different.

PTSD and Gaming

There are many first-person shooter games, and some of them can bring on some forms of PTSD in players. Using Mindfulness, as my therapist describes it and grounding the person could help them realize that it is only a video game and that it’s not real. This can be very hard, and it wouldn’t take gaming alone for the one who experienced the traumatic event. I personally do mindfulness techniques to battle my own PTSD. My favorite is what I call a squishy, but it’s a squishimal. It gives off the same effect as a stress ball, only cute. Mindfulness is a technique that doesn’t work for everyone and if it’s something you are interested in trying, then talk to your therapist or psychiatrist to ensure that it’s right for you.

Someone with PTSD could refrain from playing a game they love, this could be world of warcraft or shooter games. If someone falls off a cliff and survives, they could have PTSD from this and as such avoid games that stick you on a cliff. For example, there are many cliffs in World of Warcraft. One with PTSD might avoid if they developed theirs as a result of falling from a cliff or nearly falling from it. Someone who survived a plane crash might avoid games such as World of Planes where you are in a plane flying, but those situations could also be used as Exposure therapy to try and help curve some of the PTSD and symptoms the anxiety will bring as a result of that. if they do it in small doses, then it might work. However, Exposure Therapy should always be done under the supervision of a Therapist. We are only telling you one of the ways that gaming could help with PTSD.

Video Game Therapy

Another case where video games could be useful is in therapy. You can play the game with a friend or a stranger who doesn’t know what you’ve been through and even on a stream for multiple other people. This is not as easy as it sounds, and by no means am I saying play a game will it help you alone. I am saying that if utilized correctly, your therapist might be able to help you enjoy those games again.

Bringing the utilization of video games to help overcome your PTSD can be hard to do. Especially since so many people talk about how the games are negative. if you feel comfortable with your therapist, you could just bring up that you used to love these games, and you’d love to be able to play these games again. I’ve always been more open about my gaming, so bringing it up to my therapist was easy for me though some might not find it as easy. Some recommendations I have, for some, games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto even if someone might have been hijacked or had a bad car accident playing a car game like GTA could even be quite helpful.


So, what am I saying?

What I am saying is simple, seek therapy and get help. If you play a video game or used to enjoy a game that now gives you so much anxiety, then talking to your therapist could give you some ideas on how you can enjoy that game again. One of the suggestions a previous therapist gave me when I got anxiety crossing a bridge in World of Warcraft, was to touch the monitor and say “Okay, this isn’t real. It’s a video game. I’m safe in my chair.” As weird as it sounds, that really helped me and now I can run the Freehold dungeon in WoW without any issues.

PTSD is a nasty bugger, that can affect people in many ways., This can even cause them to not enjoy certain things they used to enjoy before, maybe they enjoyed hunting but now due to a combat zone they are unable to hold a gun or hear the gunshot. Depending on the severity of the PTSD, depends on if gaming is right to help this person overcome but as mentioned previously, should always be done under supervision of a therapist.

Do you have PTSD? Is it affected positively or negatively by gaming? Maybe next time you have an attack, you can sit back and think “I don’t need to let it win! It’s only a game and I will beat it.”


Catherine loves making YouTube videos, livestreaming, and writing blogs. Feel free to check her out on YouTube, Twitch, or WordPress!